The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Novels

The good thing about a long commute is that I can listen to a lot of recorded books. The bad thing is that some books can make you retch! I've been listening lately to "The Time Traveler's Wife" and I can't wait to finish it. I know, you say, "Change the channel!" as if I was surfing through the dozens of stupid TV channels, and actually stopping to watch things like Bones, or Oprah, or Redneck Wedding. Well, this is like one of those (only worse) but after 5 or 6 cds, and hoping it would get better, I find myself stuck and wanting to see if it gets even halfway decent before it dies.
Were you ever driving down a country road in Wisconsin and someone says, "Phew, SKUNK!"?
If you're like me then your automatic reaction is to take a big sniff! And then, once you've officially concurred, you start the monitoring sniffs to determine when you can safely breathe again without encountering the awful fumes. If you recognize this scene, then you understand why I have to finish this dreadful book (only four more appalling CDs to endure). And yes, I feel a certain amount of obligation to the author (I'm a sucker for a salesman too, once I let him in the door).

The good thing about a quiet lunchroom during the work day is that I can spend my little time reading, and I have lately been reading Steinbeck's classic classic, The Grapes of Wrath. I know, I know: "You're 51 years old and haven't read that yet?" you say. Too true. Started once a few years ago and now I don't know why I stopped. Maybe I was distracted by a dead skunk.

Anyway, I am so thrilled by Steinbeck's poignant description of the vital details of his character's lives. His grasp of the human condition is impressive and amazing. My world view and Steinbeck's are not in sync, but his descriptive genius I love.

I am involved with both books right now, and both about half way through. Perhaps Steinbeck is benefiting by the comparison, or what's her name, is being hurt by it, but I can't imagine a more disparate pair of novels: Where he makes every fact a relevant and important one, she includes whole characters and story lines that never matter. Where he describes the turn of an eye and I can relate with a joyous or tragic empathy, her descriptions are meaningless and contradictory.
Whereever his story is going, I can't wait to either rejoice or cry with my dear cousins, the Joads.
Wherever her story ends, I can barely care. I think my only remaining interest is in the pseudo science fiction theory and I expect to end up scoffing wholeheartedly at that!

I wonder; did Oprah recommend this The Time Traveler's Wife? Would she have supported The Grapes of Wrath?


  1. Well, you're talking about The Grapes of Wrath and not reading it until you turned 51. I read a lot but mostly for entertainment and mostly fiction -- popular mystery writers, private detectives and such. I remember going into the old Kroch and Bratano's (sp?) when it still existed and I would go downstairs to the mystery section and just start reading the back cover and bought whatever sounded interesting. I'd leave with 4 or 5 authors and find some I'd read again and others toss. Years ago I got caught up in the Erle Stanley Gardner books (Paul would probably remember what he wrote) and Arthur Conan Doyle (another detective series). Although they wrote other things, I associate each of them with a different popular detective. So, Mike, at least now I know I won't read the Time Traveler's Wife. I was a little curious when I saw the ads. I'm currently reading The Glass Castle, written by Jeannette Walls, about her own life growing up and her dysfunctional family. I'm about half thru and expect to finish it in the next couple days. (Train rides are long commutes as well, but provide a lot of reading time). If you've read an interesting mystery, suspense, FBI type story, let me know because I'm always looking for new authors.

  2. Mike, I was so impressed with your review. Tres bien!

  3. Thanks for commenting girls! I appreciate it very much.

    Mary, have you read Sue Grafton's private eye Alphabet series? I've enjoyed every one of them so far, and she has gone literally (literally literally!) from A up to S or T so far. Her hero, Kinsey Milhone, is a street wise, smart alecky woman who gets herself into and out of a lot of trouble, but always (of course) solves the mystery. I'm sure you would enjoy those books.

  4. I have read quite a few of hers. In fact, I just finished "T is for Trespass" at the beginning of this past week. I have a list of books I've read over the last few years (although I've missed recording quite a few), but I'm not sure whether I've read all of hers from A thru T. I have a few here because I bought a few at the Library book sale, but I've got to see whether I've already read them or not. I think the "T" book was the best of hers I've read to date.

  5. I have read both the grapes of wrath and time travelers wife. I did not like either. the grapes of wrath was just too slow for me. I appreciated the sypbolysim in the chapter about the turtle crossing the road but I was like enough already. I found the husband in the time travelers wife to be selfish. He did not make any attempt to spare the girl so much heartache.

    I did read the glass castle. I liked that one. Very inteesting.

    Thanks for linking up for Flashback Friday. Link up every Friday at


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